Scared and Learning the Hard Way

Recently, I received a heartbreaking letter from one of my readers, which resulted in back and forth messages. She’s given me permission to share our conversation.


DEAR MARY: I have been a Debt-Proof Living member for more years than I can remember. I own every book that you have written. Sadly, I ignored your advice about how easily thieves can steal your debit-card information and use that to hack into your bank account.

Recently, we went on a cruise. Not wanting to use a credit card for our travel and vacation expenses, we carefully set aside the cash we would need in our checking account. Much to my horror, five days prior to departure I discovered that someone had stolen our personal and private information and used it to get into the account, totally draining every last cent. We couldn’t even buy groceries, let alone pay for the cruise. When will I learn? Just call me Learning the Hard Way

DEAR LTHW: Oh, I am so sorry. Where do you bank and have you reported this breach? Please don’t beat yourself up. We all learn from our mistakes, and I’m sure this is an important lesson you will not have to learn a second time.

DEAR MARY: Our bank is Regions Bank in North Fort Myers, Fla. The employee we worked with advised us to file a police report, which we did. She also provided us with information on what to do when your identity is stolen. Knowing that we were planning to leave on a cruise, she jumped through hoops to see that the bank replaced the money in our account. I can’t say enough good things about this bank. And you are absolutely right that this is a lesson that I won’t have to learn twice. LTHW

DEAR LTHW: Telling you what to do when your identity has been stolen is useful but I hope you will look into getting identity protection that also provides the repair and restoration required to clean up the damage done—like the services offered by LifeLock.

DEAR MARY:  It’s me again. Only recently I tied this to an event that happened a couple of years ago. Someone filed a tax return in my husband’s name and Social Security number. When we tried to file our tax return we were told that it would not be accepted since we had already filed for that tax year. We got that mess straightened out, but not without a lot of work.

I am wondering now if there is a link between that event and having the money stolen from our bank account because the saga continues. We just received a notice from our mortgage company acknowledging our “notice of change of address.” Well, we have not changed our address, nor do we intend to. This time I have not been caught off guard. I can see where this could be heading. Someone gets our mortgage company to send our statements to them, giving them access to our account information. Then they would have everything they need to apply for a second mortgage against our home.

I am really frightened. What can we do to stop this now, regain our privacy and also make sure it doesn’t keep happening in the future? LTHW

DEAR LTHW: Unless you live on another planet, it is all but impossible to keep your information completely private. That’s just the nature of life these days. If you go to the doctor you have to reveal things like your Social Security number, driver’s license number, address, phone, name of closest relative and so forth. There’s no way around that. However, you can take steps to insure that no one can use your identifying information to impersonate you to open new credit accounts, empty your bank accounts, steal your tax refunds, or in other ways grab a ride on your good name and reputation.

I highly recommend that you immediately sign up for an Ultimate Plus membership with Lifelock. This is the only company I know of that actively monitors, routinely detects, stops the fraudulent activity and, if despite all of those efforts—will spend up to $1m to hire experts to handle your case and reimburse certain ID theft claims. That’s quite a promise. I’ve witnessed how LifeLock fulfills that promise as I have watched with amazement how LifeLock has come to the rescue for my staffer, Max.

I hope a LifeLock membership restores your peace of mind as it has for me, my family and my staff.

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7 replies
  1. sarahep
    sarahep says:

    FYI: Lifelock has been dinged by the FTC twice in recent years — as recently as December 2015 — for deceptive advertising and failure to protect consumers’ data. Needless to say, I’m reluctant to take the advice to sign up.

  2. Cherie Randall
    Cherie Randall says:

    One thing in the article that was a mistake. …you DO NOT have to give your social security number to your doctor.

  3. Pat Odoms
    Pat Odoms says:

    I am a fairly recent Everyday Cheapskate reader. I am used to Mary Hunt’s advice about not using debit cards. Unfortunately, my daughter was a victim too while on a business trip and was cleaned out. Long process in cleaning up mess and she did not get back all her money. I suggested Lifelock as Mary urges everyone to get. However, I am mystified that Mary goes against her own advice of not using credit cards but use your own money. I say that the banks purposedly expose us to harm with debit cards to force us to use credit cards and the accompanying interest charges. Why not press our lawmakers to force the banks to give us the same protections on our money as they do with credit cards? I personally have put fraud alerts on all three credit bureaus and have had it for several years. Pat O

    • Josh Hunt
      Josh Hunt says:

      Pat here is a link to an EC article that Mary wrote titled Do-It-Yourself, Consumer Protected, No-Fee, Hassle-Free, Totally Brilliant “Debit Card”

  4. Patricia Goff
    Patricia Goff says:

    I had my information stolen once too. Luckily I have a great bank (though frustrating at times). They caught it and turned off my cards. I had to go in and find out why my card wouldn’t work. They told me that somebody tried to charge something to my card. I told her I didn’t make that order and she told me she knew I didn’t which is why they shut down my account. They have done this several times including one time that was after my order (I ordered flowers for my mother on a german website) so I had to keep telling them that I did order from that company and they turned it back on. I now use a prepaid card so nobody can steal very much off of it. Problem solved. Otherwise I have been lucky and nothing else has been stolen. I think one of my daughters friends used my card to order the ring tones but have no proof. LOL

  5. Maria
    Maria says:

    Mary, I have been a member of Lifelock for years and nevertheless I was a victim of IRS i.d. theft just this past year. They never detected it but did offer some good suggestions, after the fact. One of the most important things your readers need to know is to put a Fraud Alert on one of the major credit reporting agencies out there. I do this faithfully with Experian every 90 days. No one will be able to open an account with the alert in place.
    You are a wealth of information and always enjoy reading your daily blog posts! Love, Maria

    • maxhalberg
      maxhalberg says:

      Thanks for your input Maria – I’ve talked to LifeLock about this in depth. While Lifelock can prevent a very high percentage of thefts before they even get started, nothing is foolproof. That’s why they have their million dollar service guarantee to restore your good name in the case of identity theft ( I’m a victim myself and LifeLock has saved me more times than I can count.


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